As part of Another Fine Mess (see below), this work is an audio work launched as an initial phase in July 2020 and as a vinyl record later in early 2021 (with support from Solas Nua).
It's now titled The Crossings, (but this might change as the work does, earlier phases and iterations have been titled Imperial | Metric and The Backstop). The audio work explores the topography of the Irish/UK border using mapping, computer programming and musical composition to create an audio work which transposes elevation data of the border into music, in a poetic sense, as though a record needle was dragged across the surface of the terrain - but in reality a process where the music is distilled, crafted and gerrymandered from the data.
The audio research develops, expands and deepens field-work and computer programming methodology established in Decimation in A-flat and D-minor (2018) which explores audio composition derived from topological elevation data of frontiers. The Crossings focuses on the geopolitical construct of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Since its official Boundary Commission drawing in 1924 (in part due to the same post-war political dynamics of re-inscribing borders throughout Europe) this border has always been contentious and is brought into sharper relief and prominence by Britain’s exit from the European Union (and the emergence of The Backstop). Here, the French and English meanings of 'partition' has a poetic and conceptual role - where in French partition also refers to musical harmonic structure.
The audio composition takes the data set, (which runs roughly from southeast to northwest or from northwest to southeast), from both a north and south perspective – so it plays a bipartisan perspective. The initial phase involved a complex set of calculations with a massive data set (where each data point marks a distance of 30m along the border) but progressively the work structures and modifies the material into a musical composition that is pata-perceptually faithful to both the landscape and to the artists' responses to the subject matter.
The extensive process of this research involves intensive work “in the field” gathering contextual source material followed in the studio composing predominantly within the computer programming environment and finalised with compositional and editing processes. Taking the Pure Data system developed for Decimation, this research developed a new series of complex 16 bar patches. This allows greater rhythmic and polytonal structuring of the data in order to reflect the cultural (traditional music structures) and topological terrain (drumlins, water systems, loughs and patterned fields) where rhythm and pattern play a strong part. Water is a major feature of this border and so this research explores a system patch to allow a fluidity bearing a semblance to drone techniques present in traditional folk music. This research is not a direct reaction to the current political situation as such, but rather an experimental topological exploration of the actual landscape as a rich resonating cultural and migration source which feeds into American folk music and culture, connecting with the Wabash Cannonball research output.
This is a work in progress. Now that the data is in one whole "package" (as is used in The Backstop iterations) The Crossings now addresses the border in nine county sections:
1 : Armagh Louth 2 : Monaghan Armagh 3 : Tyrone Monaghan 4 : Monaghan Fermanagh 5 : Fermanagh Cavan 6 : Leitrim Fermanagh 7 : Fermanagh Donegal 8 : Donegal Tyrone 9 : Derry/Londonderry Donegal
The stage now is the 1st section Armagh Louth which has also produced a song; The Borderland Jamboree.
The songs are unexpected and develop out of motifs that appear in the music - it seems relevant and valuable, to the project, to follow these motifs and turn them into songs.
The process and data of The Crossings is explored and early iterations (as the Backstop C19) of the music is employed throughout the Where the Lines End video work - but especially within Part 2 and the final sequence of Part 3 - see below.